This Apple iOS update will force developers to ask for tracking permission

An upcoming Apple iOS update for the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV will give users the power to decide whether or not an app can access their data across sites and other apps.

The iOS 14 (iPhone), the iPadOS 14 and the tvOS 14 beta updates will be ramping up privacy measures with an opt-in requirement Apple is calling App Tracking Transparency. The privacy feature will ensure companies and developers have to ask for a user’s permission before they can collect and use data for advertising and tracking purposes.

The update is expected to go out in the spring in the US and autumn for those in Australia. Apple initially had planned for this feature to be installed in September 2020, but delayed the update to provide developers more time to prepare for the change in requirements.

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There are currently capabilities in the iPhone’s settings to disable tracking, but this feature is the first time users will be prompted with the option and developers will risk being removed from the App Store if they fail to comply.

Image credit: Apple

As for the types of tracking we could be experiencing now if we haven’t taken a dive into our settings, here are four examples provided on Apple’s developer page:

  • Displaying targeted advertisements in your app based on user data collected from apps and websites owned by other companies.
  • Sharing device location data or email lists with a data broker.
  • Sharing a list of emails, advertising IDs, or other IDs with a third-party advertising network that uses that information to retarget those users in other developers’ apps or to find similar users.
  • Placing a third-party SDK in your app that combines user data from your app with user data from other developers’ apps to target advertising or measure advertising efficiency, even if you don’t use the SDK for these purposes. For example, using an analytics SDK that repurposes the data it collects from your app to enable targeted advertising in other developers’ apps.

However, there are exceptions to what data access Apple considers “tracking.” User permission will not be required when data “is linked to third-party data solely on the user’s device and is not sent off the device in a way that can identify the user or device”, and when data is shared with a data broker “solely for fraud detection, fraud prevention, or security purposes, and solely on your behalf.”

Facebook: Not happy, Jan.

The transparency-focused move from Apple has, of course, been cause for concern for certain companies – namely Facebook. The social media giant has been arguing – and even taking full-page ads in American newspapers in doing so – that removing personalised advertising will cost small business attention and websites ad revenue, driving the latter to implement more subscription-style fees and reduce high-quality content.

“These changes will directly affect their ability to use their advertising budgets efficiently and effectively,” read the company’s stance, published on Facebook for Business. “Our studies show, without personalised ads powered by their own data, small businesses could see a cut of over 60% of website sales from ads.” 

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook responded to Facebook’s concerns with a tweet in December.

“Facebook can continue to track users across apps and websites as before,” Mr. Cook posted. “App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 will just require that they ask for your permission first.”


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